Eames House

Added by Lindsey Schweinberg, last update: August 17, 2012, 12:29 pm

Eames House
203 Chautauqua Boulevard
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
United States
34° 1' 46.5564" N, 118° 31' 9.5268" W
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Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Residential (RES)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Commission brief: John Entenza announced the Case Study House Program in Los Angeles’s Arts and Architecture magazine. The magazine published and built thirteen “case study” homes. Design brief: The homes would be a built from new materials and industrial technologies developed during the war. Building/construction:  The steel frame uses four inch H-columns for the walls and 12 inch deep open web joists for the roof with exposed corrugated metal decking for the roof.  The exterior of the home is made of different size panels of plywood, asbestos, and pylon; a type of fiberglass. The panels are represented in different colors of blue, cream, and red. The panels are different sizes and come together to look like Mondrian painting.

Dates: Commission / Completion:commission or competition date: January 1945 (e), start of site work: March 1949 (e), completion/inauguration: December 1949 (e)
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect:  Charles Eames Other designer:  Eero Saarinen was listed as an architect when the house was commissioned but never actually worked on the design.
Others associated with Building/Site: Original owners:  Charles and Ray Eame Name<: John Entenza Association:  Arts and Architecture Magazine Event:  John Entenza commissioned the design of the Eames House for his magazine, Arts and Architecture, and chose Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen as the architects. Period: January 1945 Name: Lucia Demetrios Association:  Daughter of Charles Eames Event:  The house was left to Lucia Demetrios after the death of Ray Eames Period: August 1988 Name: Charles and Ray Eames House Foundation ssociation:  The foundation was formed to preserve and protect the Eames House. Event:  Lucia Demetrios sold the Eames House to the Charles and Ray Eames Foundation Period: December 2003
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Type of change: alteration/renovation/restoration/extension/other: new roof Date:  unknown Circumstances/reasons for change:  routine maintenance Effects of changes:  none Persons/organizations involved:  unknown
Current Use: Of whole building/site:  The current building and grounds serve as a by appointment only scheduled tours. Of principal components: Both the main house and the studio are open to the public. Comments: The Entenza house is not open to the public.
Current Condition: Of whole building/site: The Eames house and grounds are in excellent condition. Charles and Ray Eames lived in the home until their deaths and maintained the home with normal routine maintenance. The Eames’ maintained the original colors of the house and the original design. No additions have been added since the house was built in 1949. The only change that was made was a new roof that maintains the same character of the original. The Eames Foundation was created so that the house could be preserved and maintained to the same character as it was built in 1949.
General Description:

The site of the building is on a three-acre parcel of land that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The land is located on the top of a 150-foot high cliff; a flat meadow butted against a steep embankment.  The long side of the house is situated along this steep embankment creating a retaining wall between the embankment and the remainder of the house. The house is organized as two volumes with two stories; the main part of the house and the studio.  At one end of the home is a double height living room, followed by a single height kitchen and dining area with bedrooms above. The kitchen is separated from the studio by a flat patio. The studio is also a double height space with a loft above. Eucalyptus trees were planted along the other long wall to provide privacy and shade. The house was built of light gauge steel that contains the eight bays of the house. After steel arrives at site, Charles Eames decided to redesign the structure from a bridge form to two cubes, one for living and one for a studio. The plan uses the same amount of steel yet encases more space. It is reported in the magazine, Arts and Architecture, that it took sixteen hours to construct the frame. The intention of the program was for the house to be made of prefabricated, standardized parts that were industrial in feel such as concrete, glass, steel, insulation board on plywood, asbestos, and pylon. The house was built of light gauge steel that contains the eight bays of the house. A grid of standard factory windows and asbestos paneling make up the wall facing the ocean. Entire glazed walls make up the short ends. Some say that the house has a feel slightly reminiscent of the screen walls of a traditional Japanese house. The asbestos panels are brightly colored in blue, red, yellow, and white with black steel creating a grid on them.

Construction Period:
Original Physical Context:

Name of surrounding building:  Case Study House #9 also known as the John Entenza House
Visual relations: Single-story house on the same lot as the Eames House.
Functional relations: The building was also designed by Charles Eames along with Eero Saarinen and shares the same lot as the Eames house. This house was also in the Arts and Architecture case study program, so it follows the same program elements as the Eames House. Completed situation: Charles Eames decided to redesign the structure in 1947 from a bridge form to two cubes, one for living and one for a studio. The living space was pulled back so that it is now parallel to the edge of the cliff, inline with the studio space. A retaining wall was built alongside the embankment, making a strong vertical support alongside entire length of house. The new plans were published in the March 1948 Arts and Architecture magazine.  Original situation or character of site:  Preliminary plans and sketches were announced in Arts and Architecture in December 1945. Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen were announced as the architects. The Eames House was designed for a three-acre parcel of land in Pacific Palisades. The house was to overlook the Pacific Ocean. The first design was divided into two volumes of residence and studios. The design was arranged in an “L” with the living area placed on stilts, perpendicular to the ocean. The design was known as the Bridge House.

Technical Evaluation:

The materials used for the construction of the Eames home were new for their time period. During the war, the materials were developed for use in the war but were not available for use in construction. During this time, John Entenza and others talked about the use of the materials to create a new type of residential architecture. When the war was over, Enteza got his chance and created the Case Study House Program.


The Case Study House Program, which the Eames house was an integral part, played a role in trying to create a new type of architecture. The program was created for the families starting out after the war. It was described as a new architecture for a new time that would make qualitative changes in the way that people lived and thought while making use of the materials developed for war efforts. The Case Study House Program not only introduced people to a new architecture through drawings and models, but it also opened the homes to the public. This was especially true for the Eames house because the Eames' gave tours of their homes until their deaths.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Eames designed the house out of light gauge steel. The steel forms a grid of eight bays that can be seen from the exterior of the building.  This steel sets up a distinct frame of the building without having an affect on the form of the interior of the building. Canonical status: Western Europe already had many houses designed in the modern style, but the United States had not yet dialed into these stylistic tendencies. The major architectural publications were calling for a modern housing class. Los Angeles had already become a place for innovative domestic architecture. With previous houses, such as the Dodge House, a connection had been made between Modernism and the housing market. The Case Study House program further influenced the direction of the more expensive end of the housing market by making it modern. The houses introduced modular construction and prefabrication to the housing market. The Eames house was an integral part of this construction.
General Assessment:
The case study houses form a unique type of housing especially because the majority of the houses were built in the Los Angeles area. The Eames house is one of the only houses that is open to the public, so it provides insight into the program. 
Text references:

Department of Building and Safety Building Records Section, 201 N. Figueroa Street, 1st Floor, Room 110<, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Fax # (213) 482-6862
National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, 1839 C St., NW (MS 2280),Washington, DC 20240
5. 2 principal publications (in chronological order):
“Can We Expect Miracles in Post-War Housing?” Los Angeles Times, 5 August 1945, sec E.
“Case Study House for 1949.” Arts and Architecture 56 (1949): 26-39.
Saatchi, Doris. “All About Eames: Their 1949 House in Santa Monica, Put Together From Prefab Parts By Ray and Charles Eames Is Now Historic High Tech,” House and Garden  156, no. 2 (1984): 124.
McGill, Douglas. “Ray Eames, 72, A Founder Of The Firm That Designed the Eames Chair.” New York Times, 23 August, 1988, sec. D.
Steele, James. Eames House: Charles and Ray Eames, London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1994.
Colquhoun, Alan. Modern Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002) 236.
Eames Office. “About the Foundation,” Eames Foundation, 2004 (http://www.eamesfoundation.org/)(24 February 2007).
Eames Office. “Visit the Eames House,” Eames Foundation, 2004 (http://www.eamesfoundation.org/visit_house.html)(24 February 2007).
“203 Chautauqua Boulevard.”  Property Shark 2006 (http://www.propertyshark.com/mason/Reports/showsection.html?propkey=1623...)(5 February 2007).
Los Angeles Department of City and Planning. “Parcel Profile Report,” (http://www.permitla.org/parcel/)(21 February 2007).
National Park Service. “NRIS Database,” National Register of Historic Places: National Information System, (http://www.nr.nps.gov/">http://www.nr.nps.gov)(21 February 2007).

Recorder/Date: name of reporter:  Lisa Calgaro address:  725 4th Avenue Apt. B5 Brooklyn, NY 11232 telephone:  (336) 408-5904   e-mail:  lmc2149@columbia.edu date of report:  1 March 2007
Audio and Video Web References

Depicted item: Eames House , source: YouTube
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